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Paid, Owned and Earned Media: What They Are and How They’ve Changed

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PR has always been about communicating a message in the best way possible, but the channels PR agencies can use to do that have changed. A lot.

The digital revolution has opened countless new opportunities and blurred the once-distinct lines separating PR, marketing and advertising ownership.

Here’s an overview of what paid, owned and earned media are, what’s changed across these channels and how they should be approached today.

Paid Media

In the most basic definition, paid media is advertising. Whether it be print, direct mail, TV or radio, etc., if you pay for impressions to positively show your product and service off, then it falls under this channel.

While the more traditional avenues of paid media have remained, a number of new forms have opened up courtesy of Google, social media and content syndication networks.

No matter its form, though, advertising allows companies to easily control their message and get in front of their target audience, but the channel is seen with skepticism.

Tech companies looking to take advantage of paid media should consider how it can be used to amplify their earned media or owned media efforts. Secured a great piece of press coverage? Push the third-party validation out to add some credibility and reach more eyeballs with native advertising platforms like Outbrain.

Want to extend high quality content like an eBook to your buyers? Run a targeted LinkedIn Sponsored Update campaign to showcase your thought leadership and support downloads and lead gen.

Owned Media

Owned media is content that companies create and control. Email marketing, blogs, corporate social media accounts (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the like), whitepapers, eBooks and even your website are all forms of owned media.

Today, brands have essentially evolved into publishers – there is an immense demand on marketers to consistently create fresh content that their customers will consume and get real value from, so they are inclined to build a relationship with the company and take actions.

Increasingly, there is an opportunity for tech companies to converge their owned media with earned media activities. Many publications are now accepting contributed content to maintain a steady volume of activity; articles attributed to your leadership team are a great way to retain your company’s message, while gaining some editorial validation and brand awareness.

PR agencies can also help extend owned media’s longevity; whitepapers could, for instance, be fully mined for proactive pitch angles or broken down into a blog post series.

Earned Media

Earned media, as defined in Wikipedia, is “publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising.” This can consist of a piece of press or analyst coverage resulting from influencer relations, offline or online word-of-mouth referrals, or organic social media ‘likes’ or followers, for example.

This channel offers authentic validation for your company and product and services, and is proving to have a ripple effect on improving SEO. That being said, it’s more difficult to control the message of earned media and measure its business impact.

While the approach has largely remained the same, fewer journalist resources and media organizations under increased pressure to attract and retain readers have only further emphasized the fact that influencer coverage is earned.

Tech PR agencies need to guide clients on effectively packaging up stories that will resonate with influencers, as well as their target audiences. Customers and market research can go a long way in boosting product or service news. Tech companies can also see stronger results by keeping a focus on industry issues, rapidly responding to a hot news story or adding a bit of controversy.

It is no longer sufficient for tech companies to adhere to just one of these tactics. There are clear benefits to shift to a communications strategy that blends these three media channels—as well as a fourth: shared.

Post originally appeared on March Communications' blog, PR Nonsense.

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